Yeltsin Asks Legislatures to Disband

TIMES STAFF WRITER

President Boris N. Yeltsin demanded Wednesday night that Russia's regional legislatures, the last bastions of lawful resistance to his emergency rule, disband themselves and submit to the voters in December when a new national Parliament is elected.

But he indicated that Communist and ultranationalist parties, a sizable and well-organized political bloc, would be disqualified from the Dec. 12 elections for having staged the two-day armed uprising that traumatized Moscow before being crushed by military force.

"Their aim was to establish in Russia a bloody Communist-Nazi dictatorship," Yeltsin declared in a televised address, aimed at justifying Monday's bloody assault on the White House Parliament building. "The chief lesson of this is that democracy must be dependably protected. The state must use force wherever there is a threat of violence."

Yeltsin's harsh, unyielding remarks, his first in public since the deadliest civil strife for control of modern Russia, drew fresh criticism of his authoritarian methods and raised new doubts that the elections can move this giant nation any further along the torturous path from communism to democracy.

The Kremlin press service quoted Yeltsin as assuring French President Francois Mitterrand in a telephone conversation Wednesday that "the world will have a chance to see free and democratic elections" in Russia.

But in his 22-minute evening telecast, Yeltsin said that only those "politicians, parties and movements who have not stained themselves with direct involvement in the mutiny" will be "guaranteed equal opportunities" in the elections.

It was the first hint that curbs on political activity would outlast the weeklong state of emergency Yeltsin imposed Sunday night. If implemented, the restriction would disqualify parties supported by 10% to 18% of the electorate in recent opinion polls.

As identified by Yeltsin in his speech, those parties include several branches of Communists--resurgent after the Constitutional Court lifted his 1991 ban on the party's grass-roots activities--as well as the neo-Nazi Russian Unity party and the National Salvation Front. Those extremist groups were in the forefront of parliamentary opposition to Yeltsin's free-market reforms.

Russia's fragile constitutional order, already eroded by Yeltsin's dissolution of the national Parliament on Sept. 21, was further undermined Wednesday when the Constitutional Court chairman, Valery D. Zorkin, resigned under Kremlin pressure.

Zorkin had forged the 13-member court's political independence in post-Communist Russia but had sided increasingly with the Parliament against Yeltsin. Last week, Zorkin tried to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Yeltsin could not legally fire Zorkin. But the president's chief of staff and four fellow judges urged him this week to quit. Sergei Obukhov, Zorkin's spokesman, said there were threats that the judge would be prosecuted.

Zorkin skipped the court's meeting Wednesday, reportedly suffering high blood pressure. He sent a letter saying simply: "I consider it impossible to carry on with my duties in the current situation."

As residual fire from rebel snipers diminished, the tanks that pounded hard-line lawmakers into surrender were withdrawn from the fire-blackened White House, which officials said would be repaired and be used as the main offices for the government.

There were small signs Wednesday that the crackdown was easing. Fifty-nine people among the hundreds arrested were freed without charges, including prominent lawmakers Sergei N. Baburin and Vladimir B. Isakov, who had remained in the White House until the end.

And the government backed away from pre-publication censorship of independent and pro-government newspapers after some of them protested the curbs by running blank spaces in place of articles deleted by the censors. One official called the measure "an excess of the first days" of the emergency.

But about 50 national and local newspapers allied with the hard-line parties and supportive of their calls for Yeltsin's overthrow continued to be banned altogether.

Yeltsin named a new prosecutor general, Alexei Kazannik, a fellow Siberian and member of his advisory council since last February, to replace Valentin G. Stepankov, who was fired Tuesday on suspicion of disloyalty.

Kazannik must now decide whether to file treason charges--punishable by death--against the leaders of the uprising, who include former Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi and former Parliament Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov. They are held in a KGB prison, and Khasbulatov's lawyer said he is being denied access to his client.

In his speech, Yeltsin accused them of plotting an uprising for months before he dissolved Parliament, then stockpiling the White House with weapons and launching the attack under the cover of peace negotiations sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The president declared today a day of national mourning for the estimated 150 people killed in the fighting. Most of them died in a fierce eight-hour battle for control of the central television station and in seven hours of shelling at the White House.

"The nightmare of these black days is behind us," Yeltsin said, seeming to breathe harder than normal during the prerecorded remarks. "Let us not say that someone has won and someone has lost. Such words are out of place, blasphemous. We have all been scorched by the deathlike breath of fratricide."

But the speech offered no sign of how he intends to rule Russia between now and elections, no clue as to whether he will accelerate his free-market reforms, no hint of how he might enforce any of his measures against the wills of local parliaments. He did not even repeat his commitment to cut his own five-year term short by two years and hold presidential elections next June.

Parliaments in most of Russia's 88 geographical subdivisions sided with Khasbulatov and Rutskoi during the showdown. Many of their members identify with the old Soviet system but also voice legitimate local grievances over how the transition to capitalism is being managed.

Apparently respectful of their power, Yeltsin decided against dissolving these parliaments outright, as some aides suggested he might. Instead, he urged them to dissolve themselves peacefully, "without shocks and scandal." He authorized regional governors to offer financial incentives and government jobs for lawmakers willing to quit.

Fearing the Kremlin's wrath, some regional councils backpedaled this week and endorsed Yeltsin's decree for national parliamentary elections. But others remained defiant.

"This is a pure dictatorship: banning political structures, closing newspapers, censorship," Fedor P. Shershov, chairman of the city council in Bryansk, 210 miles southwest of Moscow, said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "Democratic elections are not possible under such conditions. They will be elections under the barrels of machine guns."

Some moderate politicians agree. The centrist Party of Economic Liberty, made up of business people who have benefited from Yeltsin's market reforms, decided at a national conference Wednesday to boycott the elections unless they are held in a more democratic climate.

Andrei Ostroukh of The Times' Moscow Bureau contributed to this report.

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